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Old 11-20-2013, 11:00 AM   #1
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Used and Abused

Dauntless was used and abused last night.

The day started out like many, beautiful, sunny skies, a stiff northerly breeze and waiting for the train bridge to open. Since I wanted to do about 60 nm, it was frustrating to have to delay my departure until; 9 a.m., as the FFC train bridge has been feeling poorly and now has restricted opening hours. Then to make matters worse, I did not look closely at the beginning of my days route, so once IO got underway, I realized I was actually a good 45 minutes away from the train bridge anyway. Well, I was saved the ridicule of having to beat myself up in public, when the bridge was feeling particularly poorly that morning, so it actually did not open until I got there.

Good start of the day, no wasted time. But as I was motoring away at 4.5 knots, Iím wondering why there are no other boats on the water. (Someone just informed me today, that there was some big ferocious storm forecast for yesterday and thatís why nobody was allowed out to play). (maybe, I will do a thread about weather forecasting some day). OK back to the story. No, thatís not right; there was one other boat, who I was listening to as he talked to Sisterís Creek Bridge, as he did not know how much vertical clearance he needed. The too kind bridge operator, opened for him in any case. So at this point we are both heading for the narrow channel of the ICW as it runs south from Jacksonville (at least three free docks there by the way).

So, now I am concentrating on the charts and trying to correlate what I am seeing outside as to what the charts are telling me when all of a sudden I look up and idiot brain is aimed right for me, like 100 ft. away and aiming to ďTĒ bone me. I call down to the engine room and ask for full astern, while I turn the wheel to aim for a point astern of him. Luckily, the squirrels in the engine room were not chasing each other as they are wont to do, but were attentive and Dauntless, quickly lost its forward speed and idiot brain passed in front of me, like I was not even there. To be kind, he was probably still trying to figure out how tall his boat was. So, at this point, I realized I had missed the ICW start and was wondering what those dashed lines meant on the chart, between me and where I wanted to go? I was wondering if I could got over them, but decided now was not the time for adventure, so I did a 270į turn to the north and realigned myself with the channel again and as there were no other boats trying to run me down, I entered the ICW. I also threw some nuts to the squirrels for their prompt response. I also took this occasion to admonish them again not to chew any cables, because the last time it happened I could not get the smell of charred squirrel out of the boat for days.

At this point, itís already 1 p.m. and Iíve essentially just started my day. I have a stiff current against me and am resigned to just motor on. I did take a little break, actually anchoring for about 30 minutes to see if I could figure out the tides and currents. I finally do see that once I get to St. Augustine, there will be a current in my favor, and I am hoping to take advantage of that, even though it will be dark by then.

Now, the real shenanigans begin.

Just leaving the anchorage, Active Captain warned of the currents under this bridge. As the boat is becoming squirrely (they donít mind if I use this term), I have to go full power, just to maintain steerage and about 2 knots. Yes, that means more peanuts for the squirrels (and a little extra for using their name in vain).

Ok, a slow, but steady day until dark. Iím passing St. Augustine, itís 6:00 p.m. and I look up a realize that my favorite bridge (and the place of my only unpleasant bridge operator experience in the spring) is right before me. The Bridge of Lions has specific opening times, does not open at all between 4 and 6 p.m., but after 6 it is on demand. So, itís 6:05, dark and I ask for an opening and Iím thru in minutes. Good omen. NOT.

Now, itís no longer twilight, but really dark, due to thick cloud cover. I had realized that there were few good anchorages just south of St. A, but I figured, Iíd find something. Well, I did, just not what I wanted. I had another chart question answered. Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you about those dashed lines. Once I was safely ensconced on the ICW, I looked at my raster chart (I navigate with three chart systems) and that chart was the only one that told me that the dashed lines were an old jetty. That would have been on long, expensive short cut. Ok, back to the story.

Since it is now so dark, itís becoming harder and harder to stay on course, since you know those cute, little boat docks everyone has on the ICW? Well, some are lite up light Grand Central Station, so numerous times, I panic thinking I am driving into someone living room. Then, I see these really bright lights off in the distance, almost like an airport. But there is no airport around, so I figure that it is a road with cars with bright lights. I have the whole scenario figured out. They are cars waiting at a stop sign and that why I see them come and go. So, Iím watching and watching as I am getting closer to this road and wondering why the ICW is going over a road, when all of a sudden I realize that I am looking at the red, white, green navigation lights of a tugboat coming directly at me. He turns on his searchlight, which actually made a crappy situation worse (for me at least), it that, being blinded light that, I then lost all perspective as to where he was and what I had to do to avoid him. Iím sure he was just trying to figure out what WTF I was doing and to wake me up. So, called on the squirrels again and back to WOT to do a port to port pass. It worked, I didnít get run down, but in hindsight I did realize that I probably could have easily done a starboard to Starboard pass, instead of crossing in front of him as I did.

Then, having survived that, I am looking for the channel and seeing so many red lights flashing. So, now at this point I realize I have to find someplace to anchor. Looking at their frequency (of flashing), I am trying to correlate them with the charts. After almost heading towards them, thinking they are on the right side of the channel, I finally realize that they are navigation lights on radio towers miles away. Reminded me of the time, I was flying from SEA to FAI, on the milk run and at one point I was convinced that there was another plane a mile off our wing. He was there for so long, I couldnít figure out why he was flying in formation with us. I finally realized I was looking at the navigation light on the stbd wind tip. Perspective at night, thatís why they give us instruments!

OK, at this point, I know I must anchor. Trying to find a place to anchor, now the chart just has a narrow channel going on and on. I decide to slowly venture off the channel to see how deep the water is, maybe I can anchor here?? As I angle off, Iím watching the depth gauge, 10.5 ft., 9.5ft, 10.0ft, and 2.5ft. Now, all of a sudden, I am driving thru mud that is getting heavier and heavier. I turn and add power to get back in the channel, after about 1 of really slow progress, the helm lightens and I know I am back in the channel, but now going 5 knots perpendicular to the channel, so what happens next boys and girls? I am now back in the 2.5 ft. range, on the other side, now going even slower. I decide to try to back up and it helps a bit, as there is a strong wind, I can then go forward to get back in the channel without overshooting this time.

I realize I will just have to motor on until I get to an anchorage thatís on AC. Thirty white knuckled minutes later, I do, and following the AC directions exactly, I was able to transition from the ICW to the Matanzas Inlet. Itís now almost 8 p.m., but no boys and girls, the adventure is not yet over. Itís dark; I can see the lights of the little dock for the park maybe a mile ahead, where I want to anchor. I check my radar and see this big blob in front of me. Full to port and I grab the searchlight and see this big ass catamaran, with no lights, other than a 1 watt light 60 feet in the air. You got a $million$ boat and a 5 cent light. Go figure.

I anchor three times before I am satisfied that I wonít swing into shore or another boat when the tide turns. As I turn on my anchor light, I also, turn on my spreader lights (I had changed out the halogen bulbs for LEDís) and I even decided to leave the radar and chart plotter on, as well as my nav computer, so that when I got up periodically in the night, I could instantly see my position and the track of the boat.

I then called my wife, to ask her if I should move the boat yet again (I was only 80 feet from shore, with 100 ft. of chain out). Told her the situation and that I felt that when the current reversed, the boat would essentially pivot in a small (50ft) diameter and the strong current would keep the boat from swinging.

She told me not to worry, take Benadryl and go to sleep. I did, though I did get up every two hours, but the boat was really happy and other than changing direction, stayed within a 50ft corridor.

Allís Well that Ends Well and What you donít know, canít hurt you and other fables.
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:17 AM   #2
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Wow, what a tale. I read through this and kept wondering why you don't have a chart plotter and radar on board....and then I got near the end and realized you DO have them.

So that begs the question of why you are pondering your paper charts when you have a plotter, and why you're surprised by tugs and catamarans when you have a radar on board?

After this trip is over you need to give your squirrels a big handful of nuts. They earned it.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:19 PM   #3
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Dauntless, you were a lucky guy. I am very familiar with the channel south of St. Augustine----very narrow and snaky with fast running tides. I think the docks you were mentioning were the ones just below the beach bridge. There is a navigation light that gets mixed up with the dock lights. Easy to miss. Come to think of it there is one like that north of St Augustine, too. Glad you made it safely in.

On another note the south entrance to the ICW at the St. Johns River does come in at a strange angle with low rock jetties on either side. Not a place for mistakes. You were wise to run back up the river to get a good line.
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Old 11-20-2013, 03:52 PM   #4
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Dauntless, I saw you coming down the ICW right south of the Little Jetties (the entrance from the St. Johns on the south side) as I was coming home from work yesterday. Like Don said that whole stretch you talked about can be tricky and even after living here and boating here for 20 years I have ran that stretch ONLY ONCE at night and now you know why. Glad it all worked out.

Oh Yea even though it was a crappy day for you just think, most of worked and were not out enjoying our boats!

Happy Motoring!
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Old 11-20-2013, 07:37 PM   #5
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Thanks guys.
Today was w much easier day, it's amazing how visible everything is in day light.

This is how i learn, and there is no learning if i don't push myself.
I was using the radar, but once it's dark, I keep it on really short range, 1/2 to 1/4 mile so I don't run over one of those unlighted markers.

Not using paper, maybe i should.

Some lessons learned, I'm going back to my old car days when we had to buy European Halogens to see anything at speed at night. This would have made it much easier.
I'll post pics of the result.

Also, I'm learning to trust both the radar and charts. I avoided numerous poles last night, along with the tug, barge and that catamaran.

Lastly, one of the scariest moments i did not mention, when I was passing under a 65ft double span bridge and the Na vapor lights made a light and dark areas under the bridge to a point that at the last moment, I was convinced I was going to run into a wall. Full reverse, yet again, until i figured out it was all in my brain.

Nighty, night
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Old 11-20-2013, 08:42 PM   #6
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You probably already know this, but I find my best friend at night is a good set of binoculars. If they have good light gathering characteristics they will increase your visibility markedly. Not using the spotlight can help preserve your night vision. At night I turn my screens down to low light and get the binoculars.
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Old 11-20-2013, 09:18 PM   #7
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Just the limited amount of disorienting experience I've had on the ICW after sunset has convinced me that my anchorage plans need to be exercised in daylight. Sometimes I stretch my cruising time on the ICW to sunset, but I do pay attention to where I saw the last anchorage. Thanks for sharing your story. You've described exactly what I thought would be the situation at night, and I need to work with the abilities of my new electronics before I could successfully carry-out the maneuvers you spoke about.
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:17 PM   #8
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I've anchored twice after dark & it's more stress than it's worth. I have a rule that I always anchor while there is plenty of daylight left, I'll keep going after dark if I'am heading to a marina but I don't really like to unless it's one I'am familiar with. I installed radar this year & have been using it to become accustomed to interpreting how what I see on the screen relates to what is on the water around me. I may be more likely to travel after dark now but it'll be a cold day in h#ll when I anchor in the dark again.
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:29 PM   #9
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Just reading that had me reaching for a single malt. Night time running is tough enough, without all those extra challenges.
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:43 PM   #10
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Entertaining! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 11-21-2013, 07:54 PM   #11
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Well, I've made sure to stop be 16:30 these last two days. When I finally got anchored the other night at 20:30, I was asleep by 21:00 and didn't wake till 06:00.

And then it was like such a year to travel in the day time.

Last night, I anchored in the south side of mosquito lagoon. Great holding in spite of the wind. Then as I got underway today, I come around the corner and see the bridge that I actually hit with the top of my antenna last May coming north, at night, in total darkness. Looking for a place to anchor.

That night was also very windy and rainy and I'd gone too far when I realized there were no gif anchorages.

So, looking at the charts, I decided those flats (mosquito lagoon) would have enough protection and depth. It did.

So, even when I know nothing, I know something.

Richard
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Old 11-22-2013, 06:47 AM   #12
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The morning after the storm

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Old 11-22-2013, 07:34 AM   #13
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I have travelled this stretch dozens of times. I never do the ICW at night on a pleasure cruise. Too much stress.

Just north of St Augustine are wonderful anchorages in the winding stretches of the ICW.

And just south of the my icicle docks ( good place to tie up, too).

When doing the ICW at night, I always have a second pair of eyes on the bridge.

Also, what helps is the layout of the electronics. I tend to locate the plotter centered on the helm, setting it heads up. Overlay the radar helps, too.

On night anchoring - we were enroute from Tadasak (sp?) on the St. Lawrence to Montreal and found ourselves anchoring off the ship channel at Trois Rivieres - about 1/4 mile from the shoreline as per the radar (pre plotter days). It was high tide as I turned in.

Woke up 100' from shore. No, didn't drag. Low tide and the shore had crept out towards us as we slept. The chart had indicated that we'd be OK - and as it turned out, we were.
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Old 11-25-2013, 07:24 AM   #14
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Sorry for the poor quality of the last picture, but it was pouring rain and wind, but I just had to take a picture of this yacht, with both a helicopter and a sailboat.

Now. I've seen everything and can die and go to heaven (maybe, depends upon if I can get a special waiver)

Lastly, for all of you who were worried about by anchor light surviving, it's going quite well, though I have it a thrill this morning, but we had at least 6"to spare.:eek
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